The Joy Of Looking Up


The Joy Of Looking Up

This morning I overslept. And I never oversleep. My alarm usually wakes me before my dogs or my chickens or my child. But not this morning. Barks were my alarm this morning because even the dogs know that oversleeping is something Mama doesn’t do. Slowly and not so surely, I got out of bed and headed into the kitchen following the smell of coffee in a pot that was already full and waiting for me. Coffee is Priority #1 because you never know when little feet will hit the floor and head downstairs. After a few minutes, with a warm mug in hand and a warm coat over my pajamas, I walked towards the front door surrounded by twirling, jumping excitement. Oh, if only we were all as excited to be awake as my dogs. I opened the door as I always do, trying to keep my balance as they rushed out. Then my favorite part, my very favorite part:

I sat down on the front steps, turned my face towards the starry darkness, and I looked up.

Looking up used to be My Thing. I never realized that it was a habit until one day walking down a side street in New York City, pointing out bricks and balconies, my best friend said “You always do that. Look up.” When I lived in New York – where everything reaches the sky and past it – it was like a feast for my eyes. There was this strange beauty in the buildings that gathered around me like angular, steel clouds. At Christmas time, at the top of the Saks Fifth Avenue building, there was a big, red bow. The entire building looked like a present. Taxis would honk and people would push by, but as I crossed the street, I couldn’t pull my eyes away from it. Only in New York would they wrap a building for Christmas. And the bow at the very top was the best part. It was hard to miss.

But sometimes in the hurried busyness of life you can miss the most magical things…even when they’re wrapped and handed to you.

When I lived in Boston where seemingly every structure was as old as America — or older — the buildings and city itself had a life of their own. There was always a story in every inch of architecture that I studied and sketched in graduate school. What had that gargoyle perched so perfectly on the edge of the library seen over the years? What secrets had that angel on the top of the church heard and kept, standing so silently? The trees in Boston Common felt large and ancient to me. Underneath was the rumble of the subway. I would lay in the grass, laughing with classmates, staring straight up at the sky. What hands had planted these trees back when this city was a town and the rumble came from hooves?

These are the things I would daydream about back in the days when I had eyes that would wander and hours to sit and dream.

For the past decade, as a mom and a wife with things bigger than myself to be responsible for, I look firmly forward and always around, but hardly ever up, not nearly as often as I used to. I look around to make sure things are safe or orderly. I look at my son to make sure he’s happy and healthy and wearing pants and brushing his teeth. I look at the clock to make sure there’s enough time because it just never feels like there’s enough time. I look at my phone to see the latest work email about a meeting or text from my husband about what to add to the grocery list. I look in the mirror and see too many curves, too many wrinkles, not enough concealer, and not enough bounce in my hair. But, more and more lately, I’m taking those moments to stop and lift my head.

I’m not neglecting or ignoring what’s in front of me. I’m simply giving myself the joy of what’s above.

Sometimes looking up makes you stumble. You run into things that stop you in your tracks. It can be unsteady and unsure when you’re surrounded by obstacles and life. But what amazing things you see that would otherwise go unnoticed if you kept looking straight ahead. Buildings wrapped as presents. Gargoyles and angels whose expressive stone faces have more life and wisdom than some people you meet. Old treetops with slow dancing leaves that make sunlight shimmer as you laugh with friends. High-rise giants brimming with countless people — each with a different story — on every floor. A morning sky that’s like a blanket of stars sliding off of the world as it wakes to a new day.

These things — all of these upward, heavenly things — have only been seen and known because I chose to stop and see them. Looking up can be an escape. It can be a prayer. But it can also be an education. It can be a gift. I want my son to know this. I want to teach him that there is joy and wonder in what’s above us. Joy that might be missed. Joy that might be so amazing that you can’t look away. Joy topped with a big, red bow.

I hope that my eyes will always go there. I hope that his will, too.